The night of nights: Seracini and Renzi, Vinci and da Vinci, the US Consol General… and Artviva!

We at Artviva have long been supporters of the project to find the lost da Vinci masterpiece, ‘The Battle of Anghiari’, having worked with da Vinci sleuth Maurizio Seracini himself for some years in promoting his cause.

This week we were lucky enough to be invited to a private meeting with Seracini to hear all about his amazing decades-long search for the lost da Vinci which has, in recent days, taken a giant leap forward.

When we arrived for this exclusive meeting with Seracini, we were ushered into the Salone de’ Cinquecento.

Surrounded by massive frescoes by Vasari, we were entertained by the charming, eloquent, witty and exceptionally patient Seracini about the history for his quest to find the da Vinci painting, ‘The Battle of Anghiari’.

Back-dropped by large sun-filled windows, Seracini told us how his adventure began with a chance passing on the street by an art historian who asked Seracini, who had graduated as a bioengineer, if the technology he was utilising in his profession could be used to seek out lost paintings.

This sparked an interest which soon turned into a burning passion that has seen him face his own battles in the form of continuous attacks and harsh criticism from doubters around the world.

But Seracini has continued on, and now with the backing of National Geographic, as well as the Florentine mayor Matteo Renzi being behind him, coupled with the latest exciting findings in this search for the lost da Vinci, the flames of hope are well and truly flared.

We were around 15 years into the story of his search for the lost da Vinci, when Seracini asked to be excused for a moment as he saluted a close friend of his who had entered the room.

This friend, unmistakably recognisable, was Florentine mayor Matteo Renzi himself! Even better looking in real life, this young and charismatic politician enthusiastically greeted Seracini, then shook hands with us all with a friendly, ‘Ciao, I am Matteo, nice to meet you’.

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Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi
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Mayor of Vinci, Dario Parrini

He then introduced us to the mayor of Vinci (Leonardo da Vinci literally means ‘Leonardo from Vinci’ – thus the mayor of the charming little town from where Leonardo hailed) who was in town for an event being held in the Palazzo Vecchio.

We had invited the US Consul General of Florence, the amazing and charming Sarah Morrison, along to this exclusive meeting with Seracini. Being acquaintances, Renzi and Ms. Morrison greeted each other enthusiastically before the mayors departed and Seracini continued on with his fascinating story.

Sarah Morrison, US Consul General, things to do Florence, Florence tours
Sarah Morrison, US Consul General

With the sun now gone from the windows, we heard how Seracini spent freezing nights in the dark in the Salone de’ Cinquecento using infrared technology and passed years poring over historic documentation looking for even the tiniest clues about how the room was once structured in order to determine exactly where the lost da Vinci masterpiece could be.

The Salone de’ Cinquecento is the biggest room in Palazzo Vecchio, being 54 by 23 meters. The room is called the Salone de’ Cinquecento (the ‘Salon of the 500’) because it once accommodated 500 councilmen who would come to vote on local policies. The Salone is the largest room in Italy designed for the management of the civil power and nowadays is covered with a series of impressive Vasari frescoes, and decorated with a splattering of statues and topped off with an elaborately decorated ceiling.

Seracini sought out indications on how the room was originally structured in order to piece together where the da Vinci fresco could have been placed by following clues including obscure references to the direction the 500 sat, a brief mention of someone walking into the room from a certain corner, writings on where a staircase was once built many centuries ago, and the like.

Seracini believes he has pieced together the various forms this Salone has taken throughout the centuries before Vasari then renovated the room significantly, including raising the ceilings to a height of 18 meters, in order to paint his impressive frescoes on the walls.

It was through his studies that Seracini discovered one of Vasari’s works has been completed on a false wall built a few centimeters out from the actual structure on which Vasari painted. Seracini believes Vasari built a false wall in order to protect the da Vinci underneath, being wont to destroy the masterpiece of such a respected master.

He believes a number of horses and human figures one scene in Vasari’s work has been copied from the da Vinci to pay homage to the great artist’s work. Rubens is also said to have copied this scene from the da Vinci in his work now hanging in the Louvre – both facts evidence that the da Vinci did exist, and for enough time for it to be copied by these other two great master artists.

Another clue is a figure in Vasari’s work holding a sign that says, ‘Cerca Trova’ – ‘He who seeks finds’.

All these indications eventually led Seracini to the conclusion that the great lost painting by Da Vinci had indeed been hidden behind the 16th Century fresco, “The Battle of Marciano in the Chiana Valley” by Vasari. By drilling tiny holes into an area of the Vasari painting that was already damaged, Seracini has been able to extract paint samples, which have been proven in three diagnostic tests to be comprised of the same black pigment used in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

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Rubens' copy of the Battle of Anghiari

Seracini has stated that whilst this latest news is very encouraging, it is not conclusive despite leading him to believe he is on the right path.

This is a search that involves more conspiracy theories, clue-following and drama than a Dan Brown novel – and aptly so being that Seracini is the only real-life living person given mention in ‘The Da Vinci Code’!

Maurizio Seracini is a diagnostician of Italian art. Adapting technologies from the medical and military fields and other technical measuring instruments, he has made possible diagnostics of art and searching for hidden masterpieces that do not involve destroying the artwork itself.

So enthused about the search, Mayor of Florence Renzi apparently said upon his departure from the Palazzo late one evening, “If you find something, call me and I’ll come back here in my pyjamas.”

Naysayers have dismissed Seracini’s theories as to the whereabouts of the work, citing Vasari’s known ability to remove pre-existing frescoes without damaging them, leaving no reason for him to cover up the work of an artist he is known to have so greatly respected. The latest findings regarding the pigments have been questioned in light of the fact that almost any pigment from that era could have had the same components. What’s more, the unfaithful say the Da Vinci work may never have existed in the first place. Yet others believe the conclusions Seracini has so far drawn in his research are erroneous, with some believing the lost masterpiece may be hidden on another nearby wall, or may have even been destroyed.

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Seracini searching for the lost da Vinci in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio

Artviva offers a 2-hour an exclusive Da Vinci Code Art Sleuth tour with Seracini where you learn can how to spot a forgery, receive hints on building your own private art collection and continue on the search for lost masterpieces in the company of this expert.

You can also experience another of Vasari’s great works for yourself, on our guided Uffizi Gallery tour, followed by an exclusive-entry tour of the Vasari Corridor.

Artviva also offer tours and events in Florence, RomeVeniceCinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more. We also have private tours that cater to your every desire from Florence (and Tuscany) to RomeVenice to the Cinque Terre and beyond.

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